Even the most successful business owners could use some ideas to build sales. The supply of sales-promoting ideas is almost endless, but that inventory is drawn on so frequently that truly original ideas are often hard to find. But originality does not always mean success, and more often than not, the commonly used types of sales promotion work best. Here are some of those principal types and a few examples of each.
Theme sales are everywhere. Anniversary sale, Presidents’ Day sale, Back to School sale, the Boss is Gone sale. Every major holiday and a few imaginary ones are excuses for having a sale. So are important dates in the company’s history, like the boss’s birthday, the anniversary of the big fire of ‘06, and the ever-popular grand-reopening sale.
Price and item advertising is another sales-generating approach that’s used and abused widely. Consumers are very jaded by such offers, especially when they’re couched in “percent off” terms. They’ve also come to expect that the sale price of a given item is probably the real everyday price, so something stronger has to be presented in order to overcome their skepticism. The best approach is to be as specific as possible in the claims presented such as, “Our widgest are now on sale for $9.99 and they are available at that price only until Friday.” The consumer assumes that since those specific facts can be checked easily, they must be true.
Contests are fun and can be good traffic builders if they are fresh, different, and run for a short time. The entry period has to be close enough to the awarding of prizes to prompt consumer action now. The prizes have to be enticing enough to alter the consumer’s behavior. And the contest has to be simple enough to not block someone from entering.
Many businesses give away items like coffee cups or tote bags. Such premiums aren’t bad, but they can be expensive on a per-customer-reached basis. Good premium items have high visibility and long user life, extending the exposure of the advertiser’s message over as long a period of time as possible. Many advertisers make the mistake of offering premiums without advertising them. In other words, they reward their current customers with the free stuff (which isn’t bad in itself) but they forget to let non-customers know that there’s yet another reason (the free stuff) to come to their store. Once again, identifying a clearly defined goal for the campaign is an essential part of the planning process.
Loyalty programs or frequent buyer rewards are increasingly popular, driven in large part by the ever-decreasing cost of data base marketing systems. You can get air line miles for buying just about anything these days. But there are other variations on that theme that serve the same purpose, which is to get the best customer to buy ever-increasing quantities from the sponsor. Shopper bonus cards, punch cards giving a free item after the purchase of a set number of other items, percent of purchase rebates after multiple purchases are all forms of the loyalty program.
Cross promotions, which carry customers from one business to another, can be very successful. The video store that gives take-out pizza coupons. The restaurant that sells discount theater tickets. The carpet store that gives a coupon good for carpet cleaning. These are all examples of ways two different businesses can cross-promote, share the cost of the advertising, and produce an ad campaign that’s greater than the sum of its parts.
You should never be at a loss for something to say in your ads. Just look around at the thousands of advertisements you see every day and borrow one you can adapt to your business goals.
Dave Donelson distills the experiences of hundreds of entrepreneurs into practical advice for small business owners and managers in the Dynamic Manager's Guides, a series of how-to books about marketing and advertising, sales techniques, hiring, firing, and motivating personnel, financial management, and business strategy.